- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
Fodor's London 2014
Mobile AppDownload Fodor's City Guide App for FREE!
Royal Observatory Review
Greenwich is on the prime meridian at 0° longitude, and the ultimate standard for time around the world has been set here since 1884, when Britain was the world's maritime superpower.
The observatory is actually split into two sites, a short walk apart—one devoted to astronomy, the other to the study of time. The enchanting Peter Harrison Planetarium is London's only planetarium, its bronze-clad turret glinting in the sun. Shows on black holes and how to interpret the night sky are enthralling and enlightening. Even better for kids are the high-technology rooms of the Astronomy Centre, where space exploration is brought to life through cutting-edge interactive programs and fascinating exhibits—including the chance to touch a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite.
Across the way is Flamsteed House, designed by Christopher Wren in 1675 for John Flamsteed, the first Royal Astronomer. A climb to the top of the house reveals a 28-inch telescope, built in 1893 and now housed inside an onion-shaped fiberglass dome. It doesn't compare with the range of modern optical telescopes, but it's still the largest in the United Kingdom. Regular viewing evenings reveal startlingly detailed views of the lunar surface. In the Time Galleries, linger over the superb workmanship of John Harrison (1693–1776), whose famous Maritime Clocks won him the Longitude Prize for solving the problem of accurate timekeeping at sea, which greatly improved navigation.
A brass line laid among the cobblestones here marks the meridian, one side being the Eastern, one the Western hemisphere. As darkness falls, a funky green laser shoots out, following exactly the path of the meridian line; on a clear night it can be seen up to 36 miles away.
The Time Ball atop Flamsteed House is one of the world's earliest time signals. Each day at 12:55, it rises halfway up its mast. At 12:58 it rises all the way to the top, and at 1 exactly, the ball falls.
The steep hill that is home to the observatory gives fantastic views across London, topped off with £1-a-slot telescopes to scour the skyline. Time a walk to catch the golden glow of late-afternoon sun on Canary Wharf Tower and head back into Greenwich via the rose garden behind Ranger's House. Generally the Planitarium has three themed shows per day, on rotation every 45 minutes. Tickets can be purchased ahead online.
- Address: Romney Rd., Greenwich, SE10 9NF | Map It
- Phone: 020/8858–4422
- Cost: Astronomy Centre free; Flamstead house and Meridian Line courtyard £7; planetarium shows £6.50; combined ticket £11.50
- Hours: Daily 10–5 (May–Aug., Meridian courtyard until 6); last entry 30 min before closing; last planetarium show 4
- Website: www.rmg.co.uk/royal-observatory
- Tube: DLR: Greenwich.
- Location: Greenwich
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Fodor's Go List 2014: Where we are going in 2014
- World Cup Fever: Start planning your trip to Brazil!
- Fodor's 100 Hotel Awards: Check out the winners of 2013
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
First … thank you so much to all who helped with suggestions. Read more
We saw London, we saw France and lots more.
Day 1 (9/18) Amsterdam
Well I have put off this trip report long enough so here goes. I am writing this to pay forward the help and advice which I received from Read more
We are planning a trip next summer and would like to visit England, Scotland, and Wales. Read more
· News & Features
The new Rosewood London is London's latest luxury property, touting a hip twist on Edwardian style, complete ... Read more
'Tis the season at London Heathrow, which almost seems like a giant shopping mall with an airport attached.... Read more
The beacons of hotel-cool are at it again, this time across the pond.... Read more